This poem was discovered by the composer in a magazine that was hot off the press: it appears in Sully-Prudhomme’s 1875 collection entitled Les vaines tendresses
. Here is the quintessential Fauré for those who are not drawn to the later songs of the composer. This is music of sublime drift – the nonchalant flowing of water, seemingly uneventful, but adding up to the melancholy passing of time. Each seductively inconsequential triplet gliding between voice and finger seems to prolong a summer idyll at the same time as effacing it. Fauré was already thirty when he wrote this, and it is not the work of a teenager or wunderkind. It takes a certain maturity to be aware of water passing under the bridge, but it takes a master to be able to comment on it with this degree of philosophical calm and grace. The poet’s sentimental contention that his love will uniquely survive the passing of time seems gently but firmly refuted by the flow of Fauré’s music which is tinged with just the appropriate amount of an almost Schubertian melancholy. Like many songs of the period the vocal line launches itself with an upward leap followed by a spiralling descent of ingratiating melody rich in harmonic implications. Fauré then interleaves this principal idea with two ascending themes that make the subsequent falling phrases ever more evocative of watery ebb and flow. It is a sign of the composer’s skill that the song appears the most natural commentary on nature, that all these musical means have been conjured with seemingly the minimum of effort.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2005